Belly Flops Make a Splash – Virginia Attacks on School Quality Gain National Attention

by James C. Sherlock

Why is this man smiling?

The Wall Street Journal featured an op-ed today, the first four words of which were “Attorney General Mark Herring.” No picture of the AG, so I offer one here, but they spelled his name right. so perhaps it will be Senator Herring or President Herring one day soon.

Unfortunately, the next words after his title and name were: 

“has fired the latest salvo in America’s assault on meritocracy: a 61-page opinion holding that the suburban Loudoun County school system discriminated against black and Hispanic youngsters because its selective-admission high school, the Academies of Loudon, hadn’t admitted enough of them. Never mind that—as Mr. Herring acknowledged—the school’s test-based admissions process is open to all and fairly managed. Because its results have a “disparate impact,” the school system must scrap it.”

The piece went on to describe for a national audience what Bacons Rebellion has been pointing out to Virginia readers. Selective admission schools are under attack for, well, being selective. Using tests to determine admissions does not result in student bodies that match the general demographics. It’s what the woke left calls the “Asian problem.” Asian students study too hard and have supportive parents.

The essay tracks the arc of this assault on excellence. It started in New York City.  Admission to nine of the city’s 393 public high schools is by test. Mayor DeBlasio and his schools chancellor 

“want to reserve places for black and Latino children, abolish the entry exam, and instead admit top students from every middle school in the city.  But is every middle school churning out eighth-graders with the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed at Bronx Science? Are all children who make good grades eager, motivated learners ready to make the most of what these high-powered schools have to offer?”.

Of course, to make that work or even pretend to do so would require fixing the utterly broken public middle and elementary schools that are not charters. The four keys for fixing them can be found in the charters themselves:

  • ensuring student discipline in the classroom to provide a learning environment; 
  • soliciting parental support; 
  • close monitoring of teacher skill, discipline, training and pedagogy by school leadership to ensure effectiveness; and 
  • challenging and rich curricula.

Those of course are anathema to the teacher’s unions, and thus to DeBlasio.  

From there the arc goes straight to Virginia. Having led with Herring’s manifesto, the author goes to the story of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, a tale fully told in this space.

The author also discusses the national achievement gaps and their implications for advanced high school programs.

Achievement gaps are widespread across America among kids from different backgrounds. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 13% of white eighth-grade students reached the “advanced” level in math last year, as did 31% of Asian kids, compared with only 2% and 4% of black and Hispanic children. Students who aren’t doing advanced math by the end of middle school aren’t likely to succeed in selective-entry high schools. But tackling that problem by abolishing tests and randomizing admission forfeits excellence in favor of fake equity.

One answer is building gifted programs in every elementary and middle school.  But:

School systems would also have to face the reality that some kids are smarter and more motivated than others, no matter their color. That’s anathema to “progressive” reformers, who prefer to abolish accelerated classes for high achievers. Ithaca, N.Y., is one of several communities that has moved to make all sixth- and seventh-graders take the same math, no matter how adept some are.


The progressive assault on education in the name of equity ends up denying smart kids from every background the kind of education that will assist them to make the most of their abilities. That denies America human capital for a robust economy, while keeping a fraught society from producing the opportunities that allow true equity to flourish.

For those of our readers that thought Virginia was a follower in left-wing education policy, you can now see that we are national “leaders,” a national embarrassment and a mortal threat to Virginia kids and their schools.